There are many factors, both at work, at home, and at play that can contribute to noise induced hearing loss. How, then, can a doctor confirm that a personвЂ™s hearing loss is work related?
Peter M. Rabinowitz, MD MPH wrote a detailed article in the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing ConservationвЂ™s CAOCH Update in the fall of 2005 called Determining When Hearing Loss is Work Related that explains how doctors confirm or deny occupational hearing loss. Though the article is seven years old, the information is still valid today and should be interesting, if not required reading, for anyone who works in a noisy work environment and anyone who manages employees who are exposed to loud noises while at work.
Rabinowitz explains, how only a physician can determine if a case of hearing loss is work related. The doctor will look at many factors before deciding if a personвЂ™s loss of hearing is deemed occupational including the patientвЂ™s:
вЂў Most recent and previous hearing tests particularly showing audiometric patterns
вЂў Otoscopy (ear exam) to rule out ear wax buildup, ear infections or lesions that could be causing hearing loss
вЂў Overall medical history
вЂў History of occupational noise
вЂў History of non-occupational noise
вЂў Use of hearing protection including type of hearing protection, fit, frequency of use, and Among the negative features of Sagittarian/ capricorn monthly horoscope there are being fragrant, rough, exaggerating, quick-tempered, impulsive, hot-headed, conceited, and aggressive. consistency of use
вЂў Exposure to ototoxic chemicals such as organic chemicals or heavy metals that could damage hearing
ItвЂ™s clear that more than one factor can contribute to hearing loss, which is often the case. However, if (in the words of OSHA) the doctor determines that вЂњan event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition or illnessвЂќ then the loss of hearing is occupational.
What is the Cost of Occupational Hearing Loss to a Company?
One large U.S. company puts the cost at $19,000/occurrence. Almost $20,000 just to determine if it is work related or not.
DonвЂ™t let occupational hearing loss happen in your workplace. Learn more about Custom Protect EarвЂ™s custom fit hearing protection and how it can reduce occupational and non-occupational noise that contributes to hearing loss. В A proactive hearing protection program with Custom Protect Ear can help save your company costly future expenses and help save your employee”s hearing. В It”s a Win Win!
“Normally I don’t use this blog for personal issue BUT recently I had an experience that has caused me to want to cross that line.”
I was recently at the American Society of Safety Engineers Conference (ASSE) which coincided with the National Hearing Conservation Association annual executive council meeting – a whole lot of hearing conservation in Denver this week (shh).
The conference was well attended and Custom Protect Ear was busy. In the trade show we were inundated with companies that had challenges in their hearing conservation programs asking if we could help them. If someone asked us what Denver looks like our answer would have to be 16th Street? Why? Because we spent every evening dining and walking on 16th street; a delightful mix of shops, restaurants, with free bus service running the 1/2 mile of the street.
OK enough of the travelogue. What has cause me to personalize this, is my attempt to return home, back to Vancouver BC. Stories about airline travel and what has happened to it are legend. Most of us who fly harken back to the “good old days” when flying was somewhat pleasant. I’m not sure we recognized that those were the good days back then, but with hindsight, they were certainly better. This march toward airline efficiency has delegated the process of flying to the individual and the public. We are encouraged to be our own travel agents using Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Orbitz, Priceline, Hotwire and others. The pricing for hotel rooms, airline seats, tours all are subject to extreme variability. We can buy or own seats directly from the airline, book our hotel rooms directly from the hotel, and even look for our luggage on line.
Before I make my point, a word of qualification. I love computers and computing. I have been computer semi literate since 1984 when I bought my first Texas Instruments P.C. I’ve travelled with a computer since Toshiba launched the 1100 dual disk drive portable. All of this is by way of saying I’m not afraid of computing. That said, I think all of us should immediately stop booking our own travel and return to using professionals. Firstly they need the work. More importantly, the airlines have made the process of booking travel a minefield of potential hurt. Let me give you an example of what happened to me just last night.
Eager to book in for my flight today, I went online to United Airlines website,as I have done many times before. I advised United that, yes I would be flying from Denver to Vancouver and no, I wouldn’t check any bags. Yes I’d like to see where I’m seated, as I have a preference to carry my luggage on the plane therefore, picking the right seat in advance allows me exit the plane as soon as possible. I often prefer to sit forward so it’s easy to exit the vessel. On United getting a forward seat is known as “Economy Plus”. United charges an additional fee for a “Plus” seat, which at the time was worth it to me. But that’s where the trouble started. In my ‘seat changing option’, the United online system offered me some alternative flight choices (I was curious and thought, why not ). My meeting was ending at noon so an earlier departure could have been worthwhile.
Here is the process I went through online:
- Click. 3 choices, 2 obviously requiring a stop enroute and a 3rd looking like it went straight to Vancouver. $75 dollar to change but getting home earlier is worth it.
- Click. Now to select a seat; this is where the wheels start to come off. The direct flight to Vancouver is actually 2 segments stopping in San Francisco. Well maybe that’s not so bad, let’s select a seat. The same seat wasn’t available on that flight, requiring me to move seats in SFO. All of this led me to regret changing flights. But wait, THERE’S NO UNDO. You cannot undo the changes you make without calling a person. OK, I can do that. A call to United Airlines was less than fruitful and here’s how it went
Here is the process I went through on the phone:
- Me: Hi there can you change my flight back to what I had originally booked with the upgrade, and get a refund on the seat change?
- United Airlines Operator: Yes we can change you back to your original flight. However we cannot refund the fee for changing flights. And No we cannot apply the original ‘upgrade fee’ for an upgrade on this flight. Sir, you would have to pay for an additional upgrade and then claim a refund from United for the ‘original’ upgrade you had already paid for.
So all in all I had to take the same flight I was booked on originally and I had to pay an additional $114 because I tried to be my own travel agent. So my advice, and as I say in my everyday business, let the people who are trained and specialized in their field to ‘do the work’. Ironically, my trip was about helping professionals fight against the ‘cost of noise’, and here in this blog I am fighting against the cost of ‘do-it-yourself travel’. The airlines are too clever and luring you into things you’ll pay for and not benefit from. And don’t even get me started on buying this “meals” on board….
When trying to protect their hearing, are you solving the wrong problem? According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noises each year. The CDC reports that in 2007, “82% of the cases involving occupational hearing loss were reported among workers in the manufacturing sector.” That’s 8 out of every 10 workers who are employed in the manufacturing industry. In fact, hearing loss is the most common form of work-related injury reported in the manufacturing sector according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It seems that what most are doing isn’t working.
Most work related hearing loss occurs gradually in the first ten years of employment in a manufacturing environment. That means that many new employees won’t even think about protecting their hearing until they are required to. Because the damage is done slowly over time, the worker will not notice a problem until methods of prevention are too late. Even when a manufacturing plant takes the necessary steps to engineer out the noise, hearing protection like Custom Protect Ear’s dB Blockers is still needed to prevent noise induced hearing loss. So, if companies are providing hearing protection, why do we still have the problem? Let’s start by looking at the noise sources.
Where’s the Noise Coming From?
What’s causing all the noise? In the manufacturing industry, nearly every procedure produces enough noise to cause hearing loss over time. For example, the U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive bureau lists the following processes in the food and drink manufacturing industries as high noise emitters:
1. Glass bottling lines: 85-100dB(A)
2. Product impact on hoppers: 90-100dB(A)
3. Wrapping, cutting wrap, bagging etc.: 85-95dB(A)
4. Bowl choppers: > 90db(A)
5. Pneumatic noise and compressed air: 85-95dB(A)
6. Milling operations: 85-100dB(A)
7. Saws/cutting machinery: 85-107dB(A)
8. Blast chillers/freezers: 85-107dB(A)
9. Packaging machinery: 85-95dB(A)
10. Wheeled trolleys/racks: up to 107dB(A) (from wheel bearings)
So what’s not working?
The fly in the ointment is communication. From the dawn of mankind, our ears have been the primary source of safety for the human. That’s the reason we have no “ear lids”. We can never turn our hearing off. And it is a good thing too. Hearing detects in all the hazards, in all directions in three dimensional space, whether were awake or asleep. To protect our hearing by disabling it, flies in the face of this fact. So workers enable their hearing by disabling their protection. And it is not just the worker who suffers.
Everyone Loses with Hearing Loss
The toll of occupational hearing loss isn’t just felt by the workers. It’s also a financial burden on the manufacturer. Hearing loss is a valid form of workers compensation, and if an individual can prove that he or she suffers from occupational related hearing loss from long-time noise exposure in the workplace, the business will have to pay a costly settlement. How much? In the United States, an estimated $242 million is spent annually on worker’s compensation for hearing loss disability. The bottom line: When an employee suffers occupational hearing loss, everyone loses. That does NOT include the value of the knowledge the worker with hearing loss possess that is less able to be accessed because communication is so difficult.
Prevent Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Stop occupational noise induced hearing loss before it stops you. If you are an owner or manager of a manufacturing company, whether big or small, protect your best assets – your workers – by sound proofing your workplace and providing workplace hearing protection they can hear through to your employees. If you are an employee, educate yourself on the dangers of manufacturing noise and insist on personalized, dB Blocker hearing protection you can hear through to prevent further hearing damage.
On their website, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) publishes a detailed brochure about hearing and noise in aviation occupations. It explains how the ear works, general types of noise and the effects of noise exposure, both in everyday activities and in the aviation industry in particular.
Written specifically for pilots, the FAA explains that hazardous noise occurs not only on the ground but also in the air. We would expect aircraft equipment, jet efflux, propellers, and rotors to cause noise induced hearing loss, but cabin conditioning and pressurization systems also give off noise that can cause hearing loss with prolonged exposure. Cockpit or cabin noise can be so loud that pilots have to shout to be heard buy inflatable giant water slide. Over time, even cockpit noise can cause hearing impairment.
How can pilots and other aviation workers protect themselves from noise induced hearing loss?
The FAA recommends limiting the duration of exposure to noise, but also recommends insertable-type earplugs. The FAA’s brochure states, “To be effective, earplugs must be inserted properly to create an air-tight seal in the air canal.” Custom Protect Ear’s dB Blockers™ are made to fit the individual’s ear exactly. It’s made of medical grade silicones that are soft and flexible, creating a comfortable, custom fit.
In fact, it’s no secret that we help aviation employees protect themselves from long term hearing loss. Some of our customers are big names in the aviation industry like WestJet, Air Canada, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. Passengers can also protect themselves from the effects of prolonged exposure to noise when flying across the country. dB Blockers worn on such flights allow those wearing them to arrive much more refreshed and less tired. If you or someone you know works in the aviation industry, share the FAA brochure with them and tell them about CPE’s custom ear protection. We are here to help.
Types of Noise Induced Hearing Problems
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be temporary or permanent, but is always caused by – you guessed it – noise! People with exposure to loud noise can suffer two types of NIHL (temporary NIHL and long-term NIHL). These can be prevented by wearing form fitting ear protection, but once the damage is done, it is usually irreversible. One thing is certain, if you work in noise and YOU don’t take responsibility for protecting your hearing, you will lose some or all of it before you retire.
Temporary noise induced hearing loss occurs when a person is subjected to a sudden, extremely loud noise like a gun shot, explosion or fireworks display. It can also be caused by loud music at a rock concert. The symptoms can include muffled hearing, dizziness, and pain in the ear. The symptoms can last from several hours to several days. While hearing will likely return to normal, the damage usually has been done. In some cases hearing loss will be immediate and permanent .If you are exposed to these sounds often, it will lead to a degree of permanent hearing loss.
Long-term noise induced hearing loss happens when a person has been exposed to continuous loud noises over a long period of time. Often long-term NIHL usually occurs in a noisy workplace environment. Common industries where employees report long-term NIHL are manufacturing, music, mining, transportation, railway and construction. But recreational activities like snowmobiling, mowing the lawn, and woodworking, and even blow drying hair can cause long-term NIHL. Long-term hearing loss symptoms appear gradually. Sounds may be muffled or a person may have trouble hearing in a restaurant or public place with a lot of background noise.
How Can My Hearing Be Protected?
Wearing hearing protection can help but only if it is sufficient for the noise you are in and worn effectively. While we often can’t control the noise in our environment, we can control how we deal with the noise. We recommend everyone who has frequent exposure to noisy situations, whether on the job or at home, wear custom hearing protection. Sure, we recommend it because we are a hearing protection company, but we also care about everyone’s hearing, and for over 30 years it’s been our goal to help prevent noise induced hearing loss before it’s too late.
Learn More About Custom Hearing Protection for You and Your Company
800-520-0220 or email us below
According to the National Institute of Health, 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have noise induced hearing loss that was caused by exposure to loud noises, either at leisure or at work.
That’s 26 million people in the United States that have trouble hearing high frequency sounds. That’s 26 million people for whom music sounds poorer and understanding a person speaking can be a challenge.
Temporary Hearing Loss vs. Permanent Hearing Loss
The effects of loud noise exposure may seem temporary when our hearing seems to “return to normal” after a period of time. The fact is that Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can appear to have a temporary effect but long term effects often happen gradually. Temporary hearing loss results from exposure to loud noises over a short period of time, such as a rock concert or fireworks display. When that happens, sounds may seem muffled. This affect can last from several hours to several days.
Permanent hearing loss can occur suddenly when an extremely loud noise happens close to the ear, such as a gunshot or blast. It can also happen over time when a person is exposed to loud sounds repeatedly over many years. On-the-job (occupational) noise is one of the most common sources of harmful noise, largely because a person is subjected to the sounds all day, every day, for many years.
Noises above 82 decibels cause damage. What is 82 decibels? City traffic that you can hear from inside your car measures about 82 decibels. Many occupational tasks emanate sounds louder than 82 decibels.
• Power saw at 3 feet away: 110 dB
• Sandblasting: 115 dB
• Pneumatic riveter at 4 feet away: 125 dB
• Power mower at 3 feet away: 107 dB
Now 110 dB doesn’t appear to be that much louder than 82 dB, but at 110 dB you reach your TOTAL daily permissible noise exposure in only 1 minute and 52 seconds. That’s only starting a lawn mower unprotected before hearing damage occurs.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss is 100% Preventable
And are you ready for this? If you have already been exposed to noise levels above the recommended levels, you can stop further damage from occurring. How? The National Institute of Health recommends knowing what sounds occur above 85 dBs, and wearing earplugs or other hearing protective devices.
We are truly concerned about the effects that environmental and occupational noises have on hearing loss. That’s why we started Custom Protect Ear. We are devoted to helping people live healthier lives by preventing noise induced hearing loss in a safe, effective and comfortable way. We encourage you to learn as much about hearing loss prevention as you can, so we invite you to return to our blog where we will provide informative and enlightening articles about hearing, noise levels, ear protection, environmental and occupational noise hazards.